Austan Goolsbee

There’s really no good reason why I should say something about Obama’s appointment of Austan Goolsbee to the chairmanship of the Council of Economic Advisers. Or so I thought, until I read Noam Scheiber’s post on it. He wrote,

Above all, Goolsbee is a devoutly empirical economist who shuns ideology. To the extent he has any precommitments, they are, as the president would say, to “what works.” [… He advocates] a policy-innovation he’s dubbed the “automatic tax return.” Under Goolsbee’s proposal, the IRS would send a filled-out tax return to everyone with straight-forward finances. If the taxpayer agreed with the government’s accounting, they could just sign it and send it back. (If not, they’d be free to prepare their taxes independently.) Goolsbee has estimated that this change could save Americans billions in tax-preparation fees each year.

And with that, I nearly fell out of my chair. Here’s why:

  • Goolsbee is “devoutly empirical,” “shuns ideology,” and is an all-around do “what works” sort of guy. Sounds like–exactly like–someone I know (me).
  • His automatic tax return idea is one I had about 20 years ago, while in high school, before I ever filled out a tax return. At the time, I discussed this very idea on a long walk with a high school friend. We recently reminisced about it. I’m amazed he recalls it. We were very nerdy! That friend was not Austan Goolsbee.
  • Yet, today, Goolsbee and I happen to be Facebook friends, which means nothing.
  • Add to this the fact that his name is “Austan,” which is almost perfect (I won’t quibble).

So, yeah, Austan Goolsbee. I like him so far. If I didn’t I’d have some issues to take up with myself. (Not that that would be a new phenomenon.)

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